American Wedding Practices

Living in the US makes one feel free – free to do anything, free to live, free to love, free from traditions. While this is true, there are still many practices done during wedding that renders this memorable event with a distinct American touch. Here are some:

Starting from the engagement, Americans can think of unique ways to personalize their wedding. As there really isn’t any engagement tradition, the more unique the marriage proposal is done, the better.

For most wedding preparations, the engaged couple visits their parents to inform them of their recent engagement.

At times, the engaged couple hosts an engagement party. The engagement party costs less than a wedding reception since most of the time, the menu will only include cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Therefore, if the couple is on a tight budget, they can just invite more guests to the engagement party if they plan to limit the number of guests during the wedding.

Most wedding preparations have a bridal shower given by the maid of honor and the bridesmaids. The groom may also have a bachelor party the night before the wedding but he has to be careful not to drink too much.

Wedding invitations should include response cards to quickly inform the couple whether the person has accepted or declined the invitation. The wedding invitations should also be sent within four to six weeks before the event.

Usually, there is a rehearsal dinner in which the wedding party and guests came from far places to be present at the wedding attend. It was practiced that the groom’s parents pay for this dinner.

A bridal luncheon may be hosted for the bride’s attendants during the wedding day. However, time constraints may not permit this to be part of the schedule for the wedding day. Likewise, the groom may also host a groom’s dinner for his groomsmen.

Interestingly, even if the couple is not very religious, they still prefer a religious ceremony. However, this may pose a problem since in America people of different faiths and religious backgrounds get married.

Even if there are few people who believe in bad luck, some couples still make sure that the groom does not see his bride until she starts waking on the aisle.

It is still practiced that the groom and his groomsmen enter the church through a side door. The bride will then walk down the aisle with her father. In some cases when both her father and stepfather brought up the bride, she may ask them both to escort her.

During a formal reception, there is usually a bridal table where the couple and the attendants sit. Also, food and drinks should be served as the guests appear at the reception.

Before, gift giving used to depend on what the guest will feel useful for the couple. Now, it is better to register for gifts so the guests will know what to bring that the couple will need.

Upon receiving an engagement or wedding gift, it is better to send a thank you note apart from saying “thank you” to the giver. This should be sent within two weeks upon receipt of the gift. Make a personalized thank you note, instead of using an impersonal generic thank you note.

These are just some American practices during weddings. Whether one chooses to this or prefers to have a very different wedding, what’s more important is that American’s still believe in the wedding vow, “For better or worse, ’til death do us part.”

Ask the Right Questions before you Book your Wedding Reception

Think saying “I do” is going to be the most emotional moment in your wedding? Probably so, but putting down a deposit on your wedding venue could be a close runner-up.

Reception costs consume almost half the budget for the wedding, which these days means you can expect to lay out almost $13,000, including food. And the venue you select can not only limit your choice of caterers or bakers, it’s sure to affect how much you spend to “cover up” its weak spots or accent its highlights. Most stressful of all, the popular venues book far in advance, forcing brides to make the big decision almost as soon as they set the date.

For that reason, the savvy venue-hunter wants to know what questions to ask before she walks in the door, much less signs the contract. Here are a few ideas:

Do you have a pre-set list of caterers I can use, or can I choose my own?

Some venues — high-end ones with their own catering staff, or small-town ones with little competition — require you to use the in-house caterers or choose from a small list of “approved” vendors. It can be difficult to get taste-tests or otherwise put this type of vendor through its paces. If you’re stuck with such a list, search high and low for brides who have “been there, done that” and can give you their honest opinions.

Any restrictions on decorations?

Many venues have them, but rules vary widely from place to place. Common restrictions include: no open flame (or no flame whatsoever), no tape or tacks on the walls, or no confetti. When linens are provided, some halls will prohibit the use of pins. Ask if the hall can provide any decorations themselves, especially around holidays. Useful centerpiece items such as hurricane lamps or Eiffel vases are not uncommon.

Can we bring our own liquor, is there a “corkage” fee, and do we need a license?

If the liquor’s to flow freely at your wedding, you’ll save an immense amount of moolah by bringing your own. But some venues prohibit this and require you to buy from them. Even worse is the venue that says “yes” to bringing your own alcohol, but charges you a mandatory “corkage fee” to serve it — which typically starts at an unbelievable $10 per bottle or more! You’ll want to be crystal-clear on the fine print regarding alcohol before you commit to a venue.

As for licensing, many states consider wedding receptions to be an “unlicensed social function,” meaning you don’t need one as long as you’re not charging anyone for the alcohol. But be sure to check your local regulations before moving ahead — and ask your venue if they know of any licensing requirements.

Is there a cake-cutting fee?

Some venues even limit your choice of bakers, but most don’t. A more common (and sneakier) tactic is to charge you a cake-cutting fee, which like corkage fees, can really add up — often at $1 per slice!

DIY Detective Work

These, of course, are only a few of the questions you’ll want to ask a prospective venue manager. A few more tips while you’re checking out the place:

  •  Bring a tape measure. Get the dimensions of the room, the tables, and the distance between any features that might impact your decor, like windows. How many outlets are there and where are they located? What kind of climate control is available to you?
  •  Check the kitchen. Does it look clean, roomy and suitable for your catering staff to work from?
  •  Check the hall itself. Where will you put the band, the cake table, the coffee service? Are there coat racks for your guests? Is a sound system available?
  •  Check out the parking. Is it ample? Is it paved, or can it get muddy in the case of rain? Is there handicap access?

One final thing to get clear before you autograph that contract is your venue’s cancellation policy. But hopefully, with these helpful tips, you’ll have done enough homework to rest easy in your choice and not worry about having to cancel. Now that you’ve signed, take some time to sit back and relax … before you tackle the next task in that thick wedding planner!

Be Prepared for Wedding Emergencies

Having a little bag that you can carry (or have someone in the bridal party carry) with you throughout the wedding day can keep you from worrying about things that may happen, and dealing with them when they do.

Medicine

Although everyone is feeling wonderful on the wedding day, it’s amazing what a few nerves can do to the body. Headaches, upset stomachs, and dizziness can all rear their ugly heads right when you are feeling the most pressure.

And that’s not just the couple.

You may want to keep on hand a few things to keep everyone feeling good, or at least keep them upright throughout the ceremony. A chewable or liquid antacid is a great way to calm any nervous stomachs. Crackers and ginger ale are good though too. For headaches, you can keep some acetaminophen on hand. This is usually gentler on the stomach than ibuprofen, and can be taken without food.

If the bride or bridesmaids should feel dizzy, then have them immediately sit down. Dizziness can be caused by a lot of things—low blood sugar, nerves, and more serious conditions. If the bride or groom should faint, smelling salts can help to revive them.

Band-aids are good too for sore feet in too tight of shoes.

Beauty fixes

For the women, you may want to have a few beauty tools to keep everyone looking their best. Spare lip gloss and balm are good to keep the lips looking good. A translucent face powder will keep the nose and forehead from shining. Always keep a small bottle of clear nail polish as well. This is good for fixing rhinestones that have fallen off dresses to sealing tears in stockings.

A small brush and mirror can also help, while hair spray and extra deodorant are also nice to have on hand. Bobby pins can help most hair crises, but a curling iron can be an asset too.

Miscellaneous

It’s amazing what you may need and never think of. For example, did you think to bring extra straight pins for the corsages or in case the bouquets fell apart? A small sewing kit is good to in order to fix up any small emergencies.

Stain remover and chalk are also good to have on hand. If there should be any stains that need removing, the stain remover is there. If there’s something on the bride’s dress, then you can lightly cover it with the chalk—it works great and won’t hurt the dress.

Bridal Hairstyle Tips for Choosing Wedding Updos

For many brides the hairstyle they choose for their wedding day is almost as important as the dress they choose. While every bride wants her hair to look great on her wedding day, there are also many factors to consider in choosing a style. Women with longer hair often have an especially difficult time deciding on a hairstyle.

Designing wedding updos takes a great deal of planning. An updo is essentially a hairstyle that involves pinning the hair up so that is off the neck. There are many different styles of updos available and the bride may find choosing the perfect one to be a challenging task. The bride has a lot of factors to consider when choosing a hairstyle. This article will outline some of the factors to consider when deciding on wedding updos.

The shape of the face is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing wedding updos. This is important because certain styles of updos are more appealing on faces of a particular shape while other styles may create an unappealing look. For example some hairstyles may make a round face appear even rounder while other hairstyles may create a slenderizing illusion.

The veil or headpiece which will be worn should also be considered when choosing wedding updos. While the shape of the face is very important, the headpiece is equally important because it will influence the types of styles which can be used. Once the headpiece is chosen, the bride to be can start choosing a hairstyle.

The process of choosing wedding updos usually begins with paging through wedding magazines or scrolling through websites. Most soon to be brides get their inspiration from magazines and websites which focus on weddings. Seeing models with hairstyles you like can give you the general idea of what type of hairstyle you will choose.

When looking through these magazines and websites it is important to consider the shaper of the face of the models in the hairstyles you like. If they have face shapes which are similar to your own, these styles will likely be flattering. However, if the models have faces which are shaped drastically different from your own, you may find the style to be unflattering.

The next step in the process of choosing wedding updos is to visit a salon to experiment with different styles. If you already have a hairstylist you trust or have recommendations from other friends you can choose this stylist to complete your wedding day look. Otherwise you might need to visit a few salons to see pictures of their previous work before deciding on a stylist. Once you have chosen a stylist you can do a trial run to see how the hairstyle looks with the headpiece.

Preferably the trial run to experiment with different wedding updos should take place close to the date of the wedding. This will ensure the hair is relatively similar to how it will be on the wedding day. You may experiment with different hairstyles a few months in advance only to find that the weather or other factors have changed to texture of your hair making the style that was so appealing a few months ago to not be as attractive. The trial run is very important because it is when the bride to be will really see how the updo will look on her and with her headpiece.

Top Seven Wedding Accessories

If you have any doubt that fashion dictates everything you wear, carry and use to decorate on your wedding day, just take a look at your parents’ and grandparents’ wedding pictures. See the frill-front shirts on the men? How do you like the mini skirt and knee-high boots your mother wore? Your grandma may have kept her bouquet of silk roses … imagine, not using fresh flowers for such a special occasion. Well, just as with wedding gowns, bridal accessories are fashion items that fade into and out of popularity according to the whims of brides the world over.

1. The groom – A loving, devoted husband-to-be is the all-time favorite must-have bridal accessory! Without him, you’d be standing at the altar twiddling your thumbs!

2. Your bridal party – Ok, so technically, people are not bridal accessories but you really need your best supporters by your side on your wedding day. With so much to remember, so many small tasks to take care of and the occasional bridal meltdown, your sisters, cousins and best friends are essential. And besides, you need someone to carry your Bridal Blush lip-gloss!

3. A tiara – Royal weddings have a way of infiltrating into our own more ‘common’ nuptials. Keep an eye on Prince William of England; when he ties the knot, you can bet that whatever his bride wears or carries will be the fashion for at least the following year. Tiaras make every girl feel like a princess for a day. They are bridal bling at its best. From the sparkly tiara comes the idea for the hairstyle, the veil, the earrings and even the neckline of the dress. Some are encrusted with Swarovski crystals, others are festooned with a rainbow of different colored stones. Yours could even be your Mom’s family heirloom.

4. Hairpins – These tiny little bridal accessories are as important to your overall look as your gown itself. If your hair will be up for the day, you’ll need pins to keep it in place. Decorative hairpins will look much better than plain, generic ones. They can feature crystals, pearls or enamel-painted flowers and you can even have them custom-made to suit your dress.

5. Lingerie – Even though your groom is the only person who will really see what you wear under your dress, lingerie is one of the more important bridal accessories because it helps your dress to look right. No bride wants a VPL – visible panty line – on her wedding day! Keeping your bust looking perfect is the job of your bustier, bra or corset. Above all, though, your lingerie should be comfortable because you’ll be in it for hours!

6. Shoes – Well of course, unless you get married on the sand at a beach, you’ll need shoes. But what’s in fashion for this year? First things first: you need to take into account your height compared with your fiance’s, the kind of ground you’ll be walking on (think garden wedding) and how much comfort you want. You don’t want your big day ruined by excruciating feet. Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Vera Wang all have stunning styles perfect for weddings but if your budget is a little less substantial, stick to feminine sandals with beautiful embellishments. Wear your wedding shoes in a few times before the day.

7. Jewelry – Bling is the thing. This year, bridal accessories tend more towards glitzy and feminine rather than subdued and low-key. Go for an outstanding piece and don’t overdo the look by wearing matching earrings, necklace and bracelets. Choose either stunning earrings or a choker or necklace.

Thanks to the Internet, you can buy a lot of your bridal accessories online and have them shipped to you. But there’s much to be said about going shopping with your best girlfriends and buying everything you need between cocktails, lunch and cappuccinos.

A Guide to Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Choosing bridesmaids dresses is no easy task, but it’s one of the most exciting and often the most emotional parts of the wedding planning process.

Inviting the special women in your life to be your bridesmaids; your sisters, your lifelong friends, your cousins and special family friends; is a way to seal important friendships during this very special time in your life. Choosing the bridesmaids dress, whether you do it yourself or together with your bridesmaids, is an integral part of the tradition.

Tips on Choosing the Right Dresses for your Bridesmaids

Naturally, it’s the bride who will be the focus of attention on her wedding day, but it’s important for the bridesmaids to look gorgeous too. Choose something simple and not overdecorated or detailed, but which will make your bridesmaids look elegant, sophisticated and feminine.

It’s important to choose a dress style which will flatter everyone’s figure. This is never an easy task, but empire waists and A-line or princess skirts will tend to suit most shapes and sizes.

If your bridesmaids have very different figure types and heights, and you think they might feel uncomfortable in matching dresses, a nice alternative is to choose the fabrics and colors, and allow each individual bridesmaid to choose her own dress style.

Always keep a budget in mind for your bridesmaids gowns. It’s very unfair to expect your bridesmaids to buy overly expensive dresses, and it may damage your relationship with some of the most important women in your life. Around $100-250 each dress is generally considered a reasonable cost. If you have your heart set on a more expensive gown, you might consider making up the difference yourself.

Classic Looks for Bridesmaids

Any kind of formal gown, semi-formal or evening dress can be chosen as a bridesmaids gown, so you have literally thousands of options. Satin, organza, chiffon, georgette, tulle, lace, brocades, and crepe are all classic fabrics for bridesmaid dresses. Whether you choose real silks and imported laces, or more economical alternatives will depend on your budget.

It’s traditional to choose a one-piece dress or gown, but separates are definitely an option. Mixing and matching separate blouses and skirts makes it easier to find a style which suits each individual bridesmaid.

You should think about the time of year you plan to hold the wedding, and how this will effect your gown choices. Choose lighter fabrics for summer, and a sleeveless or even a strapless dress style. If your wedding is planned for a cooler time in the year, long skirts and sleeves are best, or include a shawl or wrap as part of the outfit.

It’s a nice idea to choose your colors according to the time of year also. Fresh, soft colors are lovely for spring and summer; golds, copper tones and rusty reds for fall, and deep marine blues, teal green, deep burgundies and plums, or platinum shades for winter.

Choose colors which will match the flowers which are in bloom at the time of year, so your gowns will tone in nicely with the bouquets. Discussing your color ideas with your favorite florist will make the job of choosing colors much easier.

For a very sophisticated, formal look, black or black and white never goes out of style.. Alternating black and white solid panels has a very dramatic effect.

For a more romantic look, use white or a solid color overlaid with black lace, either as a feature of the dress itself, or as a shawl or wrap.

Soft, pretty pastel shades like lilac, powder pink, cream, platinum and eggshell blue are always popular colors for bridesmaid dresses, because they always look good together with the white or ivory shade of the bridal gown. Adding dramatic color accents in the bouquets creates a very attractive look for the wedding party as a whole.

Another idea which works very well for bridesmaids gowns is to use a silk or satin fabric with a subtle crossweave in a contrasting color, and match the bouquets to the crossweave color. The bouquets will bring out and enhance the color highlights in the dress fabric, which has a very pretty effect.

Accessories for Bridesmaids

The simplest look will tend to work best, so accessories should best be kept to a minimum. Often a simple pair of earrings, a brooch or necklace is all the jewelry you’ll need. It’s traditional for the bride to give the bridesmaids their jewelry as a gift, which is a lovely idea.

For a very formal look, shawls, gloves and even small tiaras are always appropriate as bridesmaids’ accessories.

Keep comfort as well as style in mind when you choose shoes for your bridesmaids. Very high heels may be uncomfortable to stand in for any period of time. Also consider the fact that the bridesmaids will most likely be wearing the shoes for the wedding ceremony and the reception, so choose shoes which will be comfortable to wear all day, then dance away the night.

Planning a Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner is one element of the wedding planning that can be confusing for the future bride and groom. Questions such as do we really have to have a rehearsal dinner, what do we do at the rehearsal dinner, who pays for the rehearsal dinner, who is invited to the rehearsal dinner and do we have to invite out of town guests are planning questions that remain unanswered for many couples. While the rehearsal dinner may just seem like another expense and another task that needs to be completed, it’s important to not skip out on this wonderful opportunity to get together with close friends and family members for a night of relaxation in a casual atmosphere before the wedding. This article is intended to answer some of the questions surrounding the planning of a rehearsal dinner and to provide the couple with some necessary information to help them plan a successful rehearsal dinner.

While a rehearsal dinner is not necessary, it is a good opportunity to get together with close friends and family members to thank them all for their participation and assistance during the planning of the wedding as well as their participation in the actual wedding itself. The rehearsal dinner gives the couple the chance to extend their thanks to everyone who has been involved with the wedding planning or who has simply supported them in their efforts. The rehearsal dinner can also be the opportunity to relax and unwind before the wedding. The couple is able to put aside their concerns over their upcoming nuptials and enjoy the time with family and friends. The rehearsal dinner has become a common tradition in weddings but the couple is not obligated to host a rehearsal dinner if they choose not to do so.

The typical activities involved in a rehearsal dinner include meeting at the site of the ceremony to run through the logistics of the ceremony and then gathering at a particular location, a restaurant, catering hall or even a friend’s house, to enjoy a meal together. During the dinner the couple usually takes the opportunity to thank all their guests for their love and support and may choose to honor their wedding party with gifts at this time. There are also usually a series of informal toasts at the rehearsal dinner. The parents of the couple will also usually thank the guests and offer a toast to the couple. Any of the guests at the rehearsal dinner are also free to offer a toast or a few words of wisdom to the couple. While the wedding is shrouded in traditions and expectations, the rehearsal dinner is typically a relaxed atmosphere with no set agendas.

The subject of who pays for the rehearsal dinner is another confusing topic. Tradition holds that the parents of the groom assume the financial responsibility of the rehearsal dinner but more and more couples are opting to bear the burden of the rehearsal dinner on their own. There are a couple of factors that are contributing to this changing trend. First the medium ages of couples getting married is on the rise and couples who marry at a later age are typically more financially established and capable of affording to finance the rehearsal dinner themselves. In addition the responsibility of paying for the rehearsal dinner is typically accompanied by the responsibility of planning the rehearsal dinner and many couples are unwilling to relinquish the planning responsibilities. The couple wants to ensure that the rehearsal dinner reflects their personalities and tastes and therefore assumes all responsibilities for planning the rehearsal dinner.

Although the original intent for the rehearsal dinner was to include those who are actively involved in the ceremony, the couple is free to invite any other guests that they choose to join them in the rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal dinner is an opportunity for the couple to thank everyone who has supported them throughout their wedding planning and also to just relax and have a good time with friends and family outside of the formality that often surrounds a wedding. With this in mind it is appropriate to invite anyone that you want to share in this sentiment. The couple may also wish to include out of town guest in the rehearsal dinner in order to thank them for making the trip to be with them on their wedding day. While including out of town guests is a wonderful gesture, it is important to understand that the couple is not obligated to do so. If it would be too financially cumbersome to include all of the out of town guests, the couple could consider hosting a smaller event such as an evening of drinks and appetizers for this larger group. Although everyone participating in the ceremony should be included in the rehearsal dinner the guest list is not restricted to these individuals and the couple can choose to include anyone they wish.

Planning a rehearsal dinner can seem daunting as the rules are not clearly defined but it is this flexibility that makes planning a rehearsal dinner such a fun challenge. From the invitation list to the activities the couple is under no obligations to adhere to any strict guidelines in planning their rehearsal dinner. Although planning a rehearsal dinner is not obligatory, many couples opt to do so because it is such a wonderful opportunity to thank their loved ones for their continued support.

That’s how things stand right now. Keep in mind that any subject can change over time, so be sure you keep up with the latest wedding news.

8 Tips for Picking the Perfect Wedding Dress

When little girls spend their math classes daydreaming of weddings (instead of winning the World Series — not to say you can’t do both), what do they dream of first? The perfect wedding dress, of course: a gown in white satin with a bustle and sweeping train, the perfect embellishments, and the perfect shoes.

There are few occasions in our modern world where a woman finds herself in a position to wear a no-holds-barred ball gown, much less a crystal tiara, and all too many where she’s called on to wear to a neutral suit or uninspiring “biz-caz” combo. No wonder that with so many brides, their wedding plans start with the dress.

Many of these brides are lucky. They may search high and low, braving chilly department stores and pushy bridal shops, but eventually they come face-to-face with The One. They know this is The One because they start crying, or their mother or friends all start crying at once. Suddenly the rest of the planning … the theme, the tone, the right kind of venues … it all springs to life.

Other brides aren’t as fortunate. They’ve searched just as hard, working their way through shops across three or four states, but they haven’t found The One. Instead, they’ve found three or four Contenders, all of which are serviceable and nice, but not earth-shattering enough to tell them that now is definitely time to stop the searching and get on with the planning. These brides have it harder.

Even if you’re the first kind of bride, buying the dress is such a momentous decision that you run a risk of falling into that wallet-skinning category known as the Two-Dress Bride. Here are some tips for picking the perfect dress and avoiding that awful fate.

1. Bring the entourage, but don’t buy. It’s fun and useful to bring your mother, friends or sisters on the dress-shopping expedition. It gives you a buffer against an overbearing sales staff, and it’s fun to see if your impressions of perfection are shared by your loved ones, not to mention how they’ll love being part of such an important decision. But no matter how enthusiastic everyone gets over a certain dress, don’t buy in the heat of the moment. Give yourself time to reconsider and buy with a cool head later, alone. The vast majority of dresses are non-returnable, so when you’ve bought it, you’ve bought it.

2. Don’t buy too early unless you must. Bridal gowns can take four to ten months to come from the manufacturer, but there’s no reason to buy over a year ahead of time, unless your chosen style is going to be discontinued. Give yourself some time to sit on your decision. Once you pick a gown, you’ll see a hundred others nearly like it. You’ll become a walking encyclopedia on that style of gown. All the better if you still have room to choose.

3. If you’ve bought “The One,” stop shopping. Any more window-shopping at this point will only lead you down the road toward the dreary land of Two-Dress Brides. What you need to do instead is remember that blissful feeling of having tried on The One. Go get The One out of the closet, put it on and stand in front of the mirror. You’ll remember exactly why it’s The One.

4. If you’ve bought “The One” and can’t stop shopping, get a second opinion. Show your first and second choices to other brides. Be honest — tell them you’ve already remortgaged your condo for the first dress, but you think this second dress might be It. They’ll be truthful, too — the first one was better. You’ll feel reassured.

5. Don’t tell yourself “I’ll sell the old dress and choose a new one.” This old saw of the Two-Dress Bride just won’t work. You’ll never get more than a fraction of what you paid for your first dress if you bought it new.

6. Don’t be afraid to aim high — no matter what your budget. Some brides knew from the start they wanted a designer label, but life just didn’t cooperate by making them heiresses. Yet all is not lost if you’re willing to shop courageously. At any given moment, a better-heeled bride is selling her once-used St. Pucchi or Ulla-Maija on eBay. She paid thousands upon thousands, but you, smart shopper, will pay half that or less. To take this road, you must shop earlier than other brides so you’ll have a choice of gowns. Always pay with a credit card so you’ll have recourse if the dress doesn’t arrive in acceptable condition, and again, shop early so you can buy another if necessary. Shop courageously, but not recklessly.

7. Shop online, but never send a check. Bridal gown businesses sometimes have a way of disappearing overnight. No matter what the proprietor tells you, never make a purchase as large as a wedding gown without the chargeback protection of a credit card. If they say they can’t take plastic, move on.

8. Don’t hold out forever for The One. Some brides never find The One. What they do find is a few dresses they look beautiful in. If you’re this bride, try starting your planning from the theme instead of the dress. You’ll probably eventually get sick to death of dress shopping. When that happens, “good enough” really will be good enough. Concentrate on other aspects of the wedding that mean a lot to you, like the venue, the food, or the inevitable adoration of your soon-to-be husband.

Breaking News: Common Sense Tips for Perfect Wedding Planning

Planning a wedding is not easy! When you first begin planning a wedding, there are so many forks in the road, a multitude of decisions to make, and so many ways to go astray. At this amazing and crazy time in your life, take a minute to step back, relax and organize your thoughts. Get a grip on the project you have just undertaken, follow some seemingly simple steps, and planning a wedding can be a wonderful and memorable experience.

Establish a budget, stick to it and don’t deviate.

This is often a neglected characteristic of planning a wedding. It is essential to get your budget in order before making any financial decisions. Too often, many couples book a reception location or a wedding day professionals without solid financials in hand, only to find out they have overspent and are now bound by a contract.
Big tip: Use a number for the budget that is 10-15% less than what you actually plan on spending, so you essentially have a buffer when additional expenses arise, because they will. The great thing is that if you don’t use your entire buffer, you will have some extra spending money for your honeymoon.

Hire Wedding Professionals.

When your best friend’s second cousin volunteers to do be your wedding photographer, and promises a nice discount, it might be tempting to take advantage of the offer. However, a big word of caution – hiring friends and some cased family can often backfire. Expectations may not be met on the wedding day and friendships can become estranged. Additionally, these friends may not have all the necessary experience or equipment to complete the task effectively. You should hire wedding professionals for their experience, expertise, and resources. True professionals will assist in making your day hassle free. You hire them, you can direct them, and the relationship is not personal.

Compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges

Many times, when a bride begins a search for a reception location or for wedding vendors, she simply compares prices, not services or characteristics of the services. It is rare that you will find two locations offering the exact same “package,” or two videographers that offer the same quality of service (time and style) and amount of product (prints and albums). You need to carefully evaluate each aspect of the potential venue or vendor. What seems too expensive at first glance may actually be a better deal when you realize what it offers compares to others in the same category.

Be different – cookie cutter weddings are out of style.

Brides and groom continue to look for new ways to add personal flavor to their wedding day. Giving your wedding personal style does not mean doing the same thing your best friend did, or what you watched on Entertainment Tonight about Nicole Kidman’s wedding. Think out of the box. Hiring a wedding planner or event designer, even for a few hours, can help you be inspired and lead to amazing results. Instead of a guest book, have guests sign a coffee table book on a subject that is of interest to you. Learn an unexpected choreographed first dance, like the tango, and wow the crowd.

Surround yourself with the positive people.

When selecting a wedding party and asking other friends to be involved in the wedding, select people who have positive attitudes and those who, as Bill O’Reilly says are, “lookout for you”. Single girlfriends, your older single sister, even your brother may feel a tad envious of your engagement. For the most part, this is a passing phase, but that does not make it any easier for you to deal with. These people may often criticize your decisions, attempt to have attention diverted away from you with their own theatrics, or simply try to make themselves the focus of many decisions (the style of the bridesmaids dresses, what foods they like or dislike for the meal, or which date for the wedding is “better” for her schedule). If and when this situation arises, try your best to walk away from it and ignore it. Realize their behavior is not your fault, and if they must be included in the celebrations, have your mother or a trusted friend intercept the stressful dealings with these people.

Make your ceremony mean something.

The best way to do this is to write your own vows and/or select special poems, readings or Biblical verses. Even though the ceremony is really the only event that needs to take place on the wedding day, so many couples put little focus on the actual planning of the service itself. Is there a special song for you and your fiancé, perhaps the one that was playing the night you or he proposed? Why not walk the aisle to it and surprise your fiancé? Have you ever written a poem or love letter to your fiancé? Read it during the ceremony, or if nerves won’t allow you to read it yourself, have the Officiant read it for you. Look into your fiancés eyes during the ceremony and focus on the two of you and the life you are preparing together.

Create a timeline for the wedding day.

If you are not working with a wedding planner, it is your job to create a realistic timeline for everyone to follow. Detail and document all key elements and activities that are to take place on the day. Include addresses of locations and who needs to be where and when. If you do not do this, you take the risk of all the wedding vendors establishing their own agendas. Of course, consult with the ceremony and reception venue, as well as key vendors regarding the timeline, but ultimately most all of the timeline decisions are up to you.

Ask for help when you need it.

It is not uncommon for a bride or groom to become overwhelmed with wedding planning. It takes a lot of time, dedication and work. Typically there are many people knocking at your door anxious to help—your future mother in law, your mother, your sister, his sister, your best friend, your single best friend…the list can go on forever. When asking for help from friends or family members, give them specific instructions and deadlines. Also, make sure they know you still have final say.

When wedding planning consumers every aspect of your life, take a breather.

Schedule a date with your fiancé and go to dinner, take a walk, or just go for ice cream. There is only one rule—no wedding talk. Reconnect with the ones you love and then get back to the planning with your mind and heart focused on the right things.

Of course these are not the only steps to planning a wedding, but these are very important aspects of planning that will help you keep your sanity and your focus on the reason for this whole crazy thing, love.